In division is strength:
unionism among Sydney labourers, 189O-191O
By Peter Sheldon
This paper addresses two areas which Australian labour
have neglected. First, they have shown little interest in unionism
among labourers working on building and construction. There has also
been a general neglect of the patterns of union development in the 20
years after 1890. Historians have been content, on the whole, to
concentrate on the establishment and growth of labour parties and state
industrial regulation after the major strikes of 1890-94. Unions enter
the picture first, as constituent bodies of these parties and then as
one corner of a triangular relationship with parliamentary politics and
employers over the introduction and development of the new arbitration
systems. Unions only re-emerge in their own right with an upsurge of
direct action from about 1907. The traditional interpretation has it
that the benefits gained under compulsory arbitration allowed unions to
overcome the losses suffered during the nineties and largely accounted
for the growth of union organisation after
This article links these two problems: the lack of attention
building and construction labourers and the assumption that compulsory
arbitration stimulated union growth. Its focus is the attempts to
unionise the large numbers of non-union Sydney building and
construction labourers between 1890 and 1910. It argues that
arbitration did not foster growth in union membership. The number of
unionists fluctuated with building and construction activity as a whole
and as it related to key groups of labourers. Finally, and most
importantly, this article argues that while arbitration had a minimal
impact on the number of unionists, it had much to do with the
proliferation of unions.
Prior to 1890, efforts to unionise construction labourers
unsuccessful. An existing union, the United Laborers' Protective
Society (ULPS) played an important role in the organisation of
labourers after 1900. This union's opening to and unifying of diverse
group of labourers paradoxically became a source of later divisions.
Some groups, responding to changing economic and institutional
conditions, broke away to form new unions. Their strategies were the
product of conflicting impulses towards class or narrow sectional
The four sections of this paper focus on the ULPS's responses
changing world. The first period to 1893 was largely the story of
growth until economic collapse forced a major change in the union's
thinking. The second part traces the union's adjustment to the massive
unemployment endured during the nineties. The third examines how
economic recovery and a more favourable institutional environment
between 1899 and 1904 encouraged the union's resurgence, although in a
modified form. The final section shows how the union's choice of
strategy in the previous period left it unable to resist encroachment
as its institutional supports collapsed.
Any discussion of labourers includes workers who did a wide
of jobs in different areas of the economy. They had in common their
frequently overlapping location on building, construction and quarrying
works and their lack of formal craft qualifications. Irrespective of
the skills peculiar to the different jobs (and many of these were
interchangeable), much of the work required great strength and
endurance at a time of minimal use of machinery. The pattern of
economic development forced a high level of job and geographical
mobility and it was common for many of them to have had experience in
several industries. These common elements and the differences, both
real and perceived, caused conflicting trends in unionisation.
Within this large general category of labourers, there were
important groupings that had relatively stable employment and did not
move much between types of jobs nor between different areas. The most
important of these were builders' labourers. There were also rock
miners cutting railway, sewer and telephone tunnels. Finally,
government instrumentalities permanently employed some labourers. These
groupings tended to be the areas of most persistent unionisation.
To the extent that there were distinctive types of labourers,
identify two extremes. At one end, there were the building tradesmen's
assistants, the core of the builders' labourers. At the other end, were
the navvies, the largest and most typical group of construction
labourers. The former were, by and large, settled metropolitan
labourers who, in times of prosperity, could count upon steady work on
city commercial building sites and suburban housing. There was also
work on construction jobs — bridges, tunnel lining and wharves. These
labourers worked alongside the cream of the building trades: the
stonemasons, bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers, and shared many of
the advances in hours and conditions that these artisans had won. They
developed strong workplace and union bonds with the craftsmen and,
prior to 1893, clearly saw themselves as part of the building trades
rather than as part of the legion of the unskilled. They aspired to
security and dignity within a general improvement for the working
class. Their union reflected this.
Navvies built roads, railways, dams and canals, typically with
and shovel. Much of their work was casual and itinerant. They followed
jobs or moved between jobs, often shifting between city and country or
even between colonies to do so. Depending on the season and the
availability of work, they mined, sheared, cut cane, laboured in
pastoral industry or in agriculture or drifted into the cities looking
for casual labouring around the ports. As navvies, they often dwelled
in tent camps, which at times took on the character of demountable
townships. They worked, and often lived, exclusively with other
unskilled labourers and there was no doubt they saw themselves as such.
In the nineteenth century, the eight hour day won by city building
workers rarely flowed on to navvies. Nor did the tightly knit
construction artisans support navvies against tyrannical and brutal overseers.2
Theirs was extremely arduous toil in a cruel climate and
developed something of an aura as to their size, strength, Irishness,
heavy drinking and rowdiness. However, as John Monash pointed out, they
could aspire to a job hierarchy through force of skill, literacy or
sobriety. There was the chance of direct promotion to ganger or of
advancement to the better jobs such as powder monkey, trench timberer,
rock miner, quarryman, platelayer and rough construction carpenter.
Where continuous employment allowed for sufficient saving, buying a
horse and cart made the family's move between jobs easier. Further, the
navvy's teenage children could use the cart around the works and
supplement the family income.3
Sydney labourers' unions to 1893
During this period, only labourers working as building
assistants had a stable union, the ULPS. The 30 years after its
foundation in 1861 coincided with the "Long Boom". During this period,
Sydney played a pivotal role as a rail, shipping, commercial and
administrative centre connecting the NSW pastoral economy with British
markets. Intense city building was both a cause and effect of the
boost. Rapid urbanisation required a large, casual labour force of the
less skilled. Seasonal and cyclical fluctuations in both urban and
rural employment meant large flows of unskilled workers between city and country.4
Despite this, the United Laborers' strong continuous organisation grew
in numbers, financial strength and self-confidence.
Although a union of labourers, it covered only the best placed
most skilled labourers, those assisting the craft workers. It excluded
the more numerous general construction labourers, as well as the city
pick and shovel workers. This sectionalism allowed the ULPS to function
as a craft union, alongside and together with the building craft
unions. Like them, it had well-established welfare and industrial
activities. Similarly, it had developed systems of job control and
unilateral regulation. Job-level direct action enforced rules dealing
with terms and conditions of employment. Crucial to this was the
support gained from craft unions during a period of consistent
shortages of tradesmen. To strengthen these ties, the ULPS negotiated
reciprocal agreements on union policy. The unions faced divided
employers, some of whom had "come up from the bench" and were
sympathetic to workers. These strategies and employer difficulties
allowed the United Laborers to win demands job by job.5
In the late 1880s, in an attempt to increase membership, the
repealed its rule against working with non-unionists. The outcome was
that membership fell from 500 to 150. Neither old nor prospective
members were interested in an organisation which renounced its
successful tactics. In August 1890, much chastened and swearing never
to repeat the experiment, the United Laborers restored their old
restrictive rule and began a vigorous campaign for the closed shop.
Previously, fragmented and spontaneous rank and file action had
enforced the hiring of unionists. This was consistent with the rest of
the building trades, where serious strikes were uncommon, but walkouts
by small groups of workers frequent. The union now tried and succeeded
on a wider front. At the time of the 1890-1 Royal Commission on
Strikes, it was the only building industry union which objected in word
and deed to working with non-unionists. Membership quickly climbed back to 660.6
In its internal workings and language, too, the ULPS resembled
highly democratic and participatory craft union, it also played a
leading role within the broader labour movement as a longtime and
prominent affiliate of the NSW Labour Council, United Laborers, through
their tightly mandated delegates, strongly supported Council
concentration on union and class matters, but opposed the Council's
involvement in parliamentary politics. The ULPS also contributed
generously to other unions involved in industrial action.7
While the ULPS was particularly supportive of other unions
throughout the colonies, the bulk of the large construction workforce
remained unorganised. Although nominally the largest employer in NSW,
the colonial government created a largely fragmented workforce by
contracting out public works. Subcontracting intensified the
fragmentation. Nevertheless, spontaneous combinations and strikes in
periods of labour shortage made relatively high wages possible for some
construction labourers. On a number of occasions groups of these
labourers unsuccessfully requested Labour Council help in organising,
The Council usually referred the matter to the ULPS. However, this most
solidaristic of unions was unwilling to change its rules and open its
ranks to the less skilled, the worse placed and the itinerant. Finally
in 1890, the Balmain Laborers, a union of ship painters and dockers,
agreed to a Council request to form a branch for city general
labourers. Nothing came of it.8
Three unions emerged during the following two years to enrol
labourers on metropolitan construction works. There were common factors
in their emergence. Labour Council activism interacted with two
apparently contradictory forces. The first was a buoyant market for
labourers. From 1890, after three years of contraction and stagnation,
the NSW economy revived and remained prosperous until 1892. There was a
similar reversal in the fortunes of public works spending. The result
was a more favourable market for rural and urban labourers and the
chance to force up earnings after the wage cuts and broken time of the previous years.9
The second factor was the intensifying level of class
hardening of contractor industrial behaviour from the late 1880s may
have inclined construction labourers to push for something more stable
than their relatively spontaneous job organisation. The major
industrial clashes in pastoral, transport and mining industries
heightened class identification throughout the manual workforce.
Unionised and non-unionised workers increasingly recognised their
common interests and the need for wider and closer organisation.10
Thus, as the maritime strike dragged to its tragic conclusion, the
Labour Council's Organising Committee was enrolling large numbers of
unorganised workers into new or existing unions.
In 1890, it established the NSW Amalgamated Navvies' and
Labourers' Union based at the railway construction works at Granville,
in the west of Sydney. On behalf of the new union, the Committee also
actively enrolled navvies on the edge of or outside the Sydney
district. Yet it was a conservative, welfarist union whose fragile
organisation could not weather the first signs of the 1892 economic
downturn. Its greatest setback came in its attempts to form a Sydney
branch for the city and inner suburbs. The union's level of internal
cohesion and initiative was very low and it was entirely dependent on
Labour Council support. The Organising Committee admitted as much and
attributed the union's failings to the "migratory dispositions of the
workmen interested" and Council's inability to fund organisers for the whole colony.11
By early l892 the union was no more.
In April 1892, while the Amalgamated Navvies' Union was going
through its death throes, the General Labourers' Union (GLU) appointed
an organiser to enrol "the great mass of non-unionists in and around
Sydney and suburbs".12
This new union covered shed hands and other pastoral labourers. More
than the Amalgamated Navvies' Union, this was an attempt to bring the
itinerant and divided construction workers into a general or "mushroom"
union of a type then emerging in Britain.13
Despite Labour Council co-operation, the GLU's campaign failed.
Later that year sewer miners formed a union. They had
established temporary combinations. With the depression deepening, they
recognised the need for permanent organisation to combat further
deterioration of working conditions. During a strike on the Darling
Point sewer works, they founded a union, which immediately won a strike
against attempts to cut piece rates. The miners soon turned their
attention to the struggle for reduced hours and safer working conditions.14
Many of them worked for Public Works Department (PWD) contractors.
Almost all the other worked for contractors to the Metropolitan Board
of Water Supply and Sewerage (Water Board). The halving of PWD
expenditure for sewer construction and a decline in Water Board work
therefore boded ill for the sewer miners but it was GLU interference
which determined the suddenness of their union's demise. The GLU saw
the sewer miners as an important target in its Sydney organising
campaign. Initially it unsuccessfully tried to have them form a branch
of the proposed Australian Workers' Union (AWU), an amalgamation of the
GLU and its parent Amalgamated Shearers' Union. Subsequent inducements
brought agreement. However, the GLU broke its various promises and left
the miners unable to withstand the deteriorating economy. The miners
disbanded their union during 1893.15
The only Sydney labourers union to survive the downturn was
ULPS. The worsening economy did not cause any sudden change in the
unions ideas or practices. United Laborers continued to express high
levels of solidarity within the union movement but would not
contemplate forms of mutual aid which threatened their successful
sectional methods. They played a leading role in the Labour Council's
attempts to foster organisations for other groups of labourers. United
Laborers also continued their extraordinary financial support for other
unions' struggles until late 1893. At the same time, they were deeply
concerned at a lack of direction in the union movement as defeats
mounted after 1890. Their Labour Council delegates pushed ceaselessly
for a tougher attitude to industrial matters and for the dropping of
divisive political wrangling connected to the nascent Labor Party. The
union also added its weight to attempts to reorganise those unions
broken in the Maritime Strike's aftermath.16
On the other hand, the ULPS remained aloof from the Organising
Committee's plans for a system of membership exchange using a common
card. The scheme aimed to avoid friction between unions of the
semi-skilled and unskilled in an unstable and shrinking casual labour
market. The United Laborers believed they could continue to enforce
their own rules unassisted. The unhappy experiment a few years earlier
reinforced their sectionalism. They viewed the proposed involvement
with unions which had lower or no minimum rates as a threat rather than
an advantage. The plan failed to materialise.17
1893-1899: Depression, Disbandment and Transformation
The worsening crisis soon made life difficult for the United
Laborers. By October 1893, there were 230 members unemployed and many
on short time. By 1897, their almost moribund union had seceded from an
equally debilitated Labour Council. Nevertheless, the Sydney ULPS
continued. The smaller, autonomous branches in Newcastle and suburban
Newtown also survived. Deteriorating market conditions made union job
control increasingly irrelevant. As employers regained full job
control, they enforced boycotts of ULPS militants. Some United Laborers
finished up at settlements for the unemployed. Others joined the
thousands of hungry itinerants tramping the rural areas. Still others,
such as the leading militant J.P. Reilly, found work on PWD relief
jobs. Here he encountered terrible working conditions and sweated piece
rates. Shocked at the sight of workers buried in mud and slush, "with
their hands bleeding from the arduous nature of the toil", Reilly led a
successful strike against attempts to further reduce earnings.18
The Labour Council assisted him through representations to the PWD and
Massive unemployment among labourers of all kinds had pushed
majority of United Laborers into an undifferentiated labour market of
the increasingly impoverished unskilled, They no longer worked only in
small groups as assistants to the building artisans, were no longer
part of a proud and well-tested industrial sector in which they could
call on the support of craft workers for job regulation. If they
managed to find jobs, they now worked in larger groups of general
labourers under despotic gangers, as part of an interchangeable
itinerant and apparently degraded workforce. They also faced different
employers. During the "Long Boom", they had generally worked for
private builders or contractors on public works. Those on the expanding
relief projects worked for the PWD. Reid's Free Trade Government added
to this trend with its halting introduction of direct government
employment (day labour) from 1894. Under both systems, wages and
conditions were bad and job control difficult, but changes in NSW
politics appeared to offer an alternative avenue. The ULPS now urged
Labour Council intervention on behalf of these workers before their
employer, the NSW government. The Labor Party held the balance of power
and could apply pressure on the relevant ministers on behalf of
unionists. The union gained some concessions, but was frequently
disappointed by a lack of interest from Labor's parliamentary representatives.19
Depression had caused fundamental changes in the ULPS's
By 1895, growing unemployment forced the union to suspend its minimum
rate rules. Members could now work alongside non-members. Even more
significantly, the union represented non-unionists, whom it had always
regarded as blacklegs.20
General labourers could still not join the UPLS under its restrictive
rules, yet there was no other union in Sydney they could join.
Therefore, the depression pushed the United Laborers to organise among
and agitate on behalf of, workers who, at least in the short term,
could not become unionists.
This had decisive implications for the type of organising
and the nature of the union as a whole. The old strategy of enforcement
of the closed shop and exclusion could no longer work. On behalf of its
traditional members and a large number of construction labourers, the
union now acted to directly control the relevant jobs and labour
market, the United Laborers replaced job-level solidarity and direct
pressure from below with indirect pressure and industrial solidarity
from above. Their pre-depression behaviour towards non-union
construction labourers became their union's central industrial strategy.
Major changes in construction technology encouraged these
From 1895, the PWD and then the Water Board, gradually introduced
reinforced concrete in place of stone or brickwork for the construction
of drains, bridges, aqueducts and water
This meant the employment of quite different skill groups and new work
organisation. Skilled artisans and their assistants were no longer
needed. Rough carpenters for form work and large numbers of concrete
labourers replaced them. This closely resembled the situation in other
areas of construction. With the increased use of reinforced concrete
for construction, and later for building, employment for general and
concrete labourers grew at the expense of traditional building workers.
Thus technological change provided an organisational incentive
looking beyond the building trades assistants, a transformation already
under way inside the UPLS. Whereas the depression had largely
contributed to the failure of other unions' attempts to organise
Sydney's general labourers, it had forced the United Labourers to
confront the problem. By the end of the century, the result was a major
shift in the Union's attitudes to the enrolling of workers outside its
traditional categories. Further changes in institutional and political
arrangements forced the union to consider a very different industrial
1899-1904: Recovery, broadening and division
A severe drought from 1895 to 1903 hampered economic recovery.
shortage of overseas loan funds further restricted growth. After years
of speculation prior to the depression, the collapse of the building
industry had been particularly resounding. The UPLS, like many other
unions, had survived the bitter years of the mid-nineties on paper more
than in deed. With a strengthening economy, by the second half of 1899
there were encouraging signs of a general union recovery. The Sydney
UPLS began organising and it reaffiliated with a reconstituted Labour Council.22
However, the depression had fundamentally altered the union's
perspectives. Subsequent developments were only to reinforce the major
changes. The United Laborers no longer intended to remain a union only
for builders' labourers, but began to look towards becoming the union
for all Sydney labourers. They had worked with the non-unionised and
shared experiences of direct solidarity during the depression. The new
Protectionist Government's appointment in September 1899 of E.W.
O'Sullivan as Minister for Works gave impetus to this metamorphosis.
O'Sullivan was a strong proponent of national development
state capitalism. He also firmly believed in enlightened state
intervention to improve working class living and employment conditions.
During his ministerial term, between 1899 and 1904, he actively
combined these two tenets in formulating PWD policy and practice. He
greatly centralised PWD decision-making into his own hands yet remained
very approachable. In particular, he strongly sympathised with unionism
and welcomed union input into his department's labour policies.
Building and construction industry unionists found this to be a winning
combination. Their major employer favoured union preference in
employment, overrode entrenched anti-unionism among PWD staff and
introduced major innovations benefiting unions and their members.23
With support from the Labor Party and elements within his own
O'Sullivan reshaped employment for labourers in two fundamental ways.
The first was through the determined expansion of public works
expenditure. This substantially relieved the high unemployment among
urban and rural labourers and partially countered the effects of the
adverse trade cycle. As unemployment persisted, O'Sullivan extended and
systemised relief works and other areas of state intervention to lessen
the suffering of the jobless.24
He also changed the system of employment on public works. The Reid
Government's introduction of day labour had been modest and barely
touched construction works. O'Sullivan rapidly extended PWD day labour
to replace almost completely construction contractors on the greatly
expanding works program. Through his influence day labour also spread
to public authorities such as the Water Board and the Harbour Trust.25
O'Sullivan introduced a number of measures to place the now
PWD hiring on a rational and efficient basis. By the end of 1901, three
Labour Commissioners had control of unemployment relief and the supply
of labour for relief works. A State Labour Board took over the
registration and hiring of the labour needed for normal public works.
The following year, to the great satisfaction of the unions involved,
O'Sullivan also imposed a rotation system for PWD hiring. This gave
Sydney unionists automatic access to nearly half the jobs on public
works. bypassing anti-union prejudice among PWD foremen and inspectors.26
O'Sullivan also reformed wages and conditions. He made union
the minimum wages on PWD works and set seven shillings (7/-) as the
daily minimum for eight hours of unskilled labour. This latter rate
anticipated Higgins's much heralded federal basic wage by seven years.
The Minister further enraged contractors by insisting that they too pay
these minimum rates on the few contracts still available. For the first
time, building and construction workers received payment for public
holidays and paid time off for injury.27
The growth of public construction employment and ministerial
encouragement of unionism stimulated a rebirth of unionisation among
construction workers. Some workers resurrected defunct organisations or
formed totally new ones. The ULPS enrolled previously excluded groups.
From early 1900, even before completely revising their rules, United
Laborers began enrolling non builders' labourers. The daily 7/- minimum
for an eight-hour day on public works made construction labourers more
acceptable to the previously selective ULPS.
Rule changes soon halved the joining fees, dues and fines.
unionism had been one way of maintaining organisational exclusiveness.
The reductions made the unions more accessible to the generally lower
paid construction labourers, whose earnings also suffered more from
broken employment. Because there were still problems with rules
defining precisely which group of labourers could be United Laborers,
the ULPS made changes so as to include rockchoppers, sewer miners and
concrete workers, all of whom were in great demand. The new rules also
included gantry and crane workers, pick and shovel labourers and
platelayers. The greater use of machinery and scaffolding on both
construction and larger building sites meant more employment for the
first group. The second group were the lowest status workers among
construction and building labourers and the third laid train and train
tracks. By mid-1901. the union formally covered the bulk of the
categories in building and construction.28
The union had already begun agitating on behalf of these new
Union meetings elected a series of activists as temporary, paid
organisers, sometimes for one day, at other times on a weekly basis
over a number of months. The organisers visited labourers on government
and private building sites, in quarries, on sewer and stormwater works,
in telephone tunnels, on the larger water supply projects and the
tramway and railway construction jobs around Sydney. Membership jumped
from 280 in 1900 to more than 600 the following year. By 1903. the
Sydney Branch was expanding from its traditional inner-metropolitan
base by recruiting members living and working in the outer suburbs west
to Parramatta. Organisation also spread beyond the Sydney district. New
ULPS branches began among those working on the Port Kembla harbour
works, the Portland cement works and on the construction of Cataract
Dam. Itinerant members hoping to start branches in other country towns
or on railway works wrote to Sydney asking for rule and membership books.29
This growth had little to do with arbitration but everything to do with
the reorganisation of public works under O'Sullivan.
At the same time, the union's character began to change. There
clear decline in the autonomy of workplace organisation — the result of
a number of factors. Some new members lacked experience and their union
lacked complete coverage on construction jobs. Further, they were
isolated from the traditionally supportive craft unionists. Industrial
life was also becoming tougher for builders' labourers. Private
building employers chafed at the continued interference from
O'Sullivan, unions and the Labor Party. After a decade of organisation,
they began to act more cohesively and with greater class consciousness.
This made it very difficult for builders labourers to win demands
job-by-job as they had prior to 1893. They now looked more to the union
as a whole to win their disputes. Nevertheless, the centralising trend
within the ULPS stemmed from a desire to grow by organising through
outside intervention on jobs. It also reflected the union's own
declining workplace autonomy due to its relationship with the dominant
but sympathetic employer.30
O'Sullivan protected union activists against victimisation and
recognised ULPS delegates on PWD sites. He also allowed the union to
monitor day labour employment books. O'Sullivan's attitudes encouraged
a number of building and construction unions to rely on him to achieve
their aims. They, and in particular the ULPS, increasingly took their
industrial grievances directly to the Minister. He intervened in all
areas of conflict, including the sensitive areas of hiring and firing,
job classification and discipline.31
As the ULPS moved to share greater job control through intervention
from above, it let atrophy its traditional methods of enforcement from
below. Vigilance became external to job organisation as the union's
influence became increasingly identified with and dependent on
O'Sullivan. This turned militants into petitioners. In the process, a
small group of prominent activists became increasingly responsible for
conducting union policy.
Where O'Sullivan had no influence, the weakening at the
was obvious. The NSW Master Builders' Association (MBA) recognised this
and refused the union's attempts at collective bargaining because they
contained elements of unacceptable unilateral regulation. The union
then sought satisfaction through the new province of compulsory
arbitration. The MBA watched the tortured and finally unsuccessful path
of the union's logs of claims with wry amusement. The ULPS then tried
unsuccessfully to use the same arbitration machinery to ban unionists
working with non-members and to ensure members remained financial.32
Prior to the depression, members on each job had directly enforced this
themselves. The union now implicitly admitted this was no longer
possible. As it depended on its major employer to defend its job
organisation and conditions, it now placed its hopes on the state
enforcing the union's labour market control and internal discipline.
The move from a narrow but direct solidarity to a wider but
passive, institutional form brought forth a paradoxical reaction.
Changes in the ULPS's recruitment policy encouraged a split. In April
1901, antagonists from the small Newtown Branch seceded to form the Builders' Laborers' Union (BLU).33
Although the new union gained registration in 1901, intense ULPS
pressure ensured that the Labour Council refused it affiliation. For
more than a decade, the ULPS bitterly campaigned against the breakaway
union being accepted by the labour movement and the state.34
The BLU reciprocated the hostility with interest.
There were several reasons for the ULPS's animosity. BLU
representatives were openly contemptuous of the older union, which they
regarded as flooded with labourers of lesser skill, status and
character. They rejected any notion of a common bond between
tradesmen's assistants and other building and construction labourers.
Their new union had re-established the old selectivity, even if it did
not extend beyond Newtown. BLU representatives also grossly distorted
relative membership figures during propaganda battles with the ULPS and
unfairly accused the older union of neglecting builder's labourers. In
fact the older, much larger union was much more genuinely active than
Two other factors indicate the hollowness of the BLU's case. While
there had been a major change in the ULPS, the Newtown Branch, with its
local autonomy, could have continued on the traditional path. Further,
it was the Sydney Branch which was enrolling great numbers of
construction labourers. Yet, its hundreds of builders' labourers
remained remarkably loyal.
The real reason for the split lay in the Newtown Branch's
due to local factors and the frustrated ambitions of some of its leaders,36
The main dissidents hoped to increase their power by breaking away and
organising outside Newtown. They believed there was sufficient
dissatisfaction among builders' labourers to sustain a new union. At
the time, an upsurge of organisation in many industries spawned a
proliferation of unions. Some were of the most dubious nature. The BLU,
the child of personal ambitions and antagonisms, was one of these.
Despite all its efforts, very few builders' labourers outside
old Newtown Branch joined the BLU in its first eight years. In fact,
membership fell heavily despite registration under the new Arbitration
Act. In 1905, it had only half of its original membership. In
comparison, membership figures for the craft unions in the industry
were steady or, especially after 1905, improving. The BLU still had
only 57 members in 1908 despite a city building boom and a rapid
increase in building craft union membership.37
By contrast, the ULPS continued to have the support of
labourers. In 1903, they were a major section of the 2207 United
Laborers who constituted Sydney's second largest union. Although
membership then declined heavily, this was due to the exodus of
construction labourers hard hit by massive cuts in metropolitan PWD
spending. With about 1500 members during the rest of the decade, it
still remained one of the larger unions and kept its large core of
builders' labourers. Its attempts to hunt the BLU out of existence were
thus disproportionate to the threat and were a product of the
centralising of the union's affairs in the hands of an embittered few.
Despite attempts by veteran ULPS members to foster reconciliation,
intransigence mostly won the day.38
The ULPS soon faced competition from four other unions. During
both the AWU and the ULPS responded to appeals from their members by
organising on the Blue Mountains railway works west of Sydney. Labor
Party leader. J.S.T. McGowen, arbitrated a compromise that divided NSW
construction labourers between the two unions. The agreement gave the
ULPS coverage of the areas where it was already active. The AWU, which
was showing renewed ambitions towards construction workers, received
the rest of NSW. After one year, the ULPS cancelled the agreement. The
AWU could not mount a challenge, as it was preoccupied with defeating
the threat from the "bogus" Machine
Another union covering labourers was the Public Service
of NSW (PSA). Senior public servants had founded the union in 1899 for
workers employed under the Public Service Act. The PSA was
conservative, paternalistic and centralised. In 1911 it opened its
doors to all NSW government employees and absorbed the fledgling Water
and Sewerage Board Service Association. The latter had begun in 1900,
modelling itself on the PSA. It covered permanent water and sewerage
maintenance labourers. These flowed into the PSA.40
In 1902, construction labourers working for the Water Board or
contractors formed the Sydney and Suburban Sewerage Employees' Union
(SSSEU). They were already covered by the ULPS. The new union formed
during a period of rising public awareness of the plight of the sewer
miners and rockchoppers. In late 1911. O'Sullivan established an
inquiry which found that these workers had suffered a terrible toll of
illness and death from silicosis. Its recommendations included a
six-hour day for tunnelling through sandstone. While O'Sullivan
implemented the recommendations as to hours and conditions, the Water
Board ignored the Minister's request to follow suit.41
It also blocked the SSSEU's claims for uniform rates on Board jobs.
While the union had enough fire to prompt one large contractor to
request a release from its contract, with the almost total collapse of
sewerage construction during 1903 the union folded.42
Those members still having labouring jobs in Sydney probably drifted
back into the ULPS.
1904-1910: Revival, recomposition and division
Amid a halting economic recovery and allegations of government
incompetence, Joseph Carruthers and his conservative Liberal Reform
Party won the August 1904 state elections. He promised a major
reduction and restructuring of government spending and regulation.43
After more than four years of "O'Sullivanism", the PWD was a special
target. The new minister, C.A. Lee, cut depleted PWD spending even
further, redirected the remaining activity from city to country and
replaced day labour with contract. PWD spending remained very low
during the middle of the decade and even with the end of decade boom
did not regain the levels of the O'Sullivan era.
Economic revival after 1905 seemed to offer Sydney's labourers
brighter prospects. Unemployment amongst the unskilled fell gradually
from 1906. Prosperity after 1908 reabsorbed most of the unemployed.
Partly this was due to a general transition from construction to
manufacturing and partly to renewed pressure on building stock. There
was a new round of building city offices and warehouses. This reduced
city residential areas and consequently stimulated suburban house building.44
The ULPS continued to broaden its appeal to the great mass of
metropolitan labourers. To ease pressures on their external labour
market, it campaigned through the Labor Council for an end to
government immigration programs. The union also continued to lobby and
agitate on behalf of builders' labourers and rockchoppers and sewer
miners, but with little success.45
Lee was much less amenable to union deputations. Further, the Labor
Party was now the official opposition and, no longer holding the
balance of power, was unable to exert the same pressure. Even in such
unpromising circumstances, the ULPS appeared unable to move away from
its new strategy of pressure from above.
While some sections of the ULPS membership seemed content to
upon lobbying, rockchoppers and sewer miners were not. They continued
to face terrible health hazards and their wages and conditions had
deteriorated. Yet the ULPS did little more than protest to a
sympathetic Labour Council. Although these workers had a tradition of
job militancy, the union did not enforce their demands when their
labour market was tight. Finally, in January 1908, they formed their
own union. Within a short time, the new Rockchoppers and Sewer Miners'
Union of NSW (RSMU) had organised almost all the 500 or so workers on
Water Board jobs. It immediately took advantage of a shortage of
rockchoppers to win a series of local strikes. The Board and
contractors had to comply with the union's interpretations of
classification, hours, wages and
The introduction of new industrial legislation soon
matters. The 1901 Industrial Arbitration Act had been a failure. In
1908, C.G. Wade, Carruthers' successor, enacted the Industrial Disputes
Act. This imposed heavy penal clauses for strikes, echoing employers'
proposals to combat rising union militancy. The Act also stressed
groups of workers in "industries" rather than unions. Tripartite wages
boards under the Industrial Court determined wages, hours and
conditions for each of the "industries" under the Act."47
The Labour Council promoted a boycott of the new legislation.
However, a number of non-affiliates registered at once and then applied
for exclusive access to the wages boards for their "industries". This
prompted a slow but steady leakage of competing affiliated union. The
boycott collapsed during 1909. Nevertheless, the rising cost of living,
resentment of Wade's Act and the growing influence of direct action
ideas increased industrial tensions. During 1908 there were a number of
major and at times bitter strikes48
After a series of isolated, local skirmishes, the RSMU became
only union to decisively defeat both the employers and Wade's
repressive legislation. Against mounting pressure from the government,
courts and capitalist press, the resoluteness of the small union's rank
and file won the day. The contractors and then the Board backed down on
every point. It was successful self-activity of this kind which
cemented allegiances to the new union and left the ULPS with those less
demanding in their unionism49
While this was a spectacular victory, the establishment of
boards had a more decisive and lasting impact on labourers' unionism.
The ULPS supported the Labour Council boycott and did not register.
Breakaway unions registered early, and successfully applied for wages
boards as the ULPS lost Industrial Court hearings deciding coverage of
building trades' assistants, Water Board and Sydney City Council
labourers. It also lost in theory the rockchoppers and sewer miners it
had already lost in fact. Throughout all these hearings. the ULPS
claimed to be the only union which rightfully covered all types of
labourers in building, construction, quarrying and public authorities).50
The Act divided the Sydney labouring workforce into different
"industries" and thus into different boards. These cut across the
union's membership. These divisions owed very little to reality, but
aided the judicial decomposition of a broadly based union and the
fragmentation of a general layer of the labour force. Even more than
the legislation, it was the interpretations of the Court's President,
Judge Heydon, which split the labourers on jurisdictional lines.
Both the ULPS and the MBA strongly contested the BLU's claims
represent the majority of building trades' assistants. The overwhelming
majority of these workers were United Laborers. The BLU, which claimed
to have 170 members, was very marginal. In response to ULPS requests
that Heydon take this into account, compared with the immensely larger
ULPS coverage, the BLU brought to bear its familiar inclination for
untruth and elitism, BLU representatives objected to being included
with rockchoppers as the latter belonged to a different industry —
works construction — rather than building. Nor had they any wish to
either cover or be organised with the pick and shovel brigade and the
concrete workers, the "unskilled". Their separate union and wages board
helped stress their remoteness from the general labourers and their
proximity.' to the building artisans with whom they wished to be identified.51
Their stance was diametrically opposed not only to the new
ethos, but to work practices on building sites and labour market
realities. As one ULPS official explained, tradesmen's assistants often
did both "skilled" and "unskilled" labouring, and often on the same
site. This was especially the case when the trade was not brisk. They
competed with the completely "unskilled" for pick and shovel work on
the foundations, expecting to be kept on for the sequence of lighter
and better paid skilled labouring jobs. The ULPS stressed the differing
groups' overlapping work experience and shared interests. BLU members
had left the ULPS for personal reasons. Their claim to skilled status
was a charade and their union bogus.52
Heydon refused to accept that strength in the field affected
right to representation under the Act. The Act spoke of "industries"
and not "unions" and either union could represent the interests of
employees in the industry. The BLU had applied for the constitution of
a wages board for its industry. The ULPS had not. There was a
difference between builders' labourers and others on the basis of skill
and because the Act said so. Therefore, he granted the BLU sole
employee representation on the wages board which decided builders'
labourers' wages, hours, and conditions).53
Legislative and arbitral intervention alone cannot explain why
jurisdictional defeats became heavy organisational losses. The answer
lies in the transformation of the ULPS over the preceding decade. This
is also the key to understanding how an attempt at wider unity led to
greater divisions. For a number of years the ULPS had eschewed direct
job control by workers for an increasingly centralised union
organisation. The union had used its position and status to win
concessions through representation and to retain members' loyalty
against the BLU. A wages board, to which the ULPS had no formal access,
would now settle industrial matters for builders' labourers. All
concessions would seem to flow through the BLU's wages board
representation. There was little or no room for the ULPS's deputations
and lobbying. Here was finally a reason for builders' labourers to
prefer the BLU.
The BLU used this institutional monopoly to grow at the ULPS's
expense. During a commercial building boom, it could promise and hope
to deliver improvements for builders' labourers on a wide front for the
first time. In this way, the BLU broke out of its geographical confines
and stagnation. With 57 members at the end of 1908, 238 one year later
and 950 at the end of 1911, it more than outstripped the rapid
expansion of union membership in the rest of the building industry. It
soon became part of a new national Builders' Labourers' Federation
covering the majority of builders' labourers.
Heydon's decision caused the ULPS to panic and register. It
unsuccessfully claimed all the remaining labourers. There were still
some 80 United Laborers doing rockchopping and sewer mining, many of
them also members of the RSMU. The RSMU replied by claiming that it
effectively covered the vast majority (98%) of those getting the
six-hour day on Water Board jobs. This time, Heydon decided that
strength in coverage counted. In asserting its organisational and
jurisdictional independence the RSMU stressed not so much the skilled
nature of the work but the distinct sphere of employment. The Board had
special conditions of employment not found in outside industry. Thus
the RSMU laid claim to the best placed and most tightly organised and
was for the moment content to leave the remaining miners and
rockchoppers to other unions.54)
For all its militancy then, the RSMU's strategy was similar to that of
the BLU or of the pre-depression United Labourers: the segmentation of
labouring workforces by the removal of the best located and most
cohesive groups. These became the nucleus on which to build a tightly
disciplined, active, high-wage union out of the labouring morass.
Still another union made inroads into ULPS coverage. Some of
Water Board's permanent labourers seceded from the PSA and formed the
Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage Employers' Association
in early 1909. They criticised the PSA's failure to maintain their real
and relative wages and its refusal to represent individual members in
the law courts. Also, the PSA did not register under the 1908 Act due
to its paternalistic traditions and the government's exclusion of most
public servants from arbitration. The seceding Board employees saw in
the 1908 Act a golden opportunity to further their neglected interests
with a minimum of conflict and bother.55
The ULPS, which had organised among the Board's labourers with
success for most of the decade, contested this new threat. The new
union used the argument that it dealt with a distinct employer, the
Board, and thus had distinct interests, It admitted ULPS coverage among
the Board's permanent and casual labourers, but countered by claiming
strength among the ventshaft workers, yet another "skilled" group of
labourers who had little in common with pick and shovel workers. But
ventshaft workers were only a tiny group. The new union's
representatives claimed that anyone who worked for the Board, by force
of the work processes involved, was automatically more skilled than
those who did not. Further, the different conditions enjoyed by the
Board's permanent employees ensured that they had little in common with
outside workers. Heydon noted the Act's inclusion of the Board as a
separate "industry" and removed permanent Board labourers from the
ULPS's wages board. The new union excluded casuals until early 1910,
after which it sought to represent them, again in competition with the
ULPS. Heydon granted this too, after the Board and the new union
outlined the advantages to the Board and the public of a tame "house"
union rather than one with a militant past and close Labour Council links.56
Like other unions, the ULPS had reacted to the defeats and
depression of the 1890s by looking outwards.57
In this case, it meant a new form of solidarity with the weak, the
largely ununionised construction labourers. A similar experiment prior
to the depression indicated the risk of losing strength among its
traditional base, the well-placed building tradesmen's assistants. The
new widening did cause a split but the BLU's challenge was weak and
appeared doomed. Faced with similar pressures during the same period,
British general or "all-in" labourers' unions managed to contain
sectional impulses. They merely acted as federations of permanent local
job control or bargaining units.58
In NSW, Heydon's administration of the 1908 Act was largely responsible
for the ULPS's attempts to unify the labouring ranks ending in enduring
institutional disunity. A handful of Sydney labouring unions survived
where there might only have been one very large ULPS and perhaps the
much smaller RSMU.
In general terms then, recovery and then growth in union
among labourers came as a result of economic recovery from 1899 and
again after 1905. O'Sullivan's administration of the PWD had given it a
particular boost. Compulsory arbitration did little to increase
unionisation among labourers, at least before 1910. They were already
organised or being organised, but into fewer unions. Arbitration after
1908 was decisive in determining which unions were to survive and their
contours within the labouring workforce. Prior to 1908, the ULPS
covered the full range of very diverse labourers in building and
construction. It had members in "skilled" and "unskilled" labouring, in
permanent and casual positions, under public and private employers.
Heydon's decisions reduced the union's jurisdictional representation to
the unskilled and the worst placed. Yet the losses incurred as a result
of the 1908 Act only demonstrated how far the ULPS had slipped in its
ability to hold the loyalty of its larger and more heterogeneous
membership. The real source of its weakness, and hence its defeats, had
deeper roots and a longer history.
By organising along more generous class impulses after 1900,
United Laborers gave up the source of their historic sectional
strength. This alone did not cause the union's gradual qualitative
decline. Rather, it was a question of a diminishing ability to adapt
organisation and behaviour to new challenges, a weakening of nerve and
of will. Rigidly pursuing a strategy suited to a set of fortuitous
external circumstances proved disastrous when those circumstances
changed. The union lost groups of both "better" and "worse" unionists.
An example of the former were the rockchoppers and sewer miners. If the
ULPS was not going to change its strategy and press home the advantages
of these miserably treated but well-placed workers, they were. The
opportunistic BLU and Water Board Union were examples of the latter.
While the ULPS continued its unsuccessful pressure group
major changes in its environment left it vulnerable to such competing
groups better able to negotiate the change. The BLU, in fact, offered
nothing more than the ULPS had been providing, but through Heydon and
the 1908 Act it was now in a position to do so. The ULPS was not, In
broadening its base, the ULPS had lost distinct groups of labourers
conscious that their superior skill or location allowed them to make
gains through exclusive, sectional unionism. Such sectionalism could be
the expression of a militant, rank and file union such as the RMSU, or
of conservative, deferential and bureaucratic unions such as that for
Water Board employees.
Through all these challenges, the ULPS tried desperately to
its organisational integrity. A major arena of past activity provided
one avenue and, from 1908, ULPS delegates initiated a Labour Council
rule which formalised the exclusion of their rivals. They also
persuaded Council delegations to urge the secessionists to rejoin the
ULPS as part of a Council campaign to consolidate competing unions59
Attempts at reunification failed, The ULPS grew again, but only through
concentrating on scattered metropolitan work groups and the large
bodies of construction navvies further afield, Here it was to come up
against the might of the larger rural-based unions, notably the AWU.
University of Sydney
This is a rewritten version of a paper for the Conference on
of Division: Historical Perspectives on Disunity within the Australian
Workforce, Sydney, November 1985. The author thanks Greg Patmore for
1. A recent restatement is S.F.
Macintyre, Labour, Capital and Arbitration, 1890-1920, in B.W.
Head (ed), State and Economy in Australia, Oxford University
Press, Melbourne, 1983.
2. D. Rowe. The Robust Navvy: The
Railway Construction Worker in Northern New South Wales. 185
1-1891. Labour History, 39, November 1980. 32, 34.
3. John Monash's Description of
the Navvy 1891, Labour History, 40, May 1981. 93-94 Rowe,
loc cit 33, 36.
4. S.H. Fisher. The Family and the
Sydney Economy in the late Nineteenth Century, in F. Grimshaw, C.
McConville and E. McEwen (eds), Families in Colonial Australia.
George Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1985, 154, 158.
5. NI. Rimmer and P. Sheldon, Union
Control Against Management Power: Labourers Unions in New South Wales
Before the 1890 Maritime Strike, Australian Historical Studies,
April 1989; Federated Builders and Contractors Association of
Australasia (FBCA), Convention Reports and Proceedings, 1891-1911,
79. 96-98. 167-9; Report to the Royal Commission on Strikes, 1890-1
(RCS), Literary Appendix, 1-19 Minutes of Evidence, passim. It is clear
that Bede Nairn underestimated the similarity of the ULPS to craft
unions and thus the early homogeneity of the Labour Council. He also
underestimated the militancy of the ULPS. N.B. Nairn, The Role of
the Trades and Labour Council in New South Wales 1871-1891. Historical
Studies: Selected Articles, second series, Melbourne, 1967, 157.
6. RCS, Minutes of Evidence.
333, 342-3. 402-3: TLC General Minutes, 7/4/1894.
7. Rimmer and Sheldon, loc cit. This
ignores the changing name and composition of the Labour Council during
this period. The UPLS contributed £60 to the maritime strike fund
1890. Labour Defence Committee, Official Report and Balance Sheet,
Sydney 1890, 30. It was also a major contributor between 1885 and 1893.
See eg, General Minutes, 31/12/1885, 21/1/1886, 3/12/1891.
8. Rowe, loc cit 39, 45; TLC General
Minutes, 14/10/87, 20/10/87, Executive Committee Minutes 24/6/1890; I.
Wyner, With Banner Unfurled, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1983.
9. E.A. Boehm, Prosperity and
Depression in Australia 1887-1897, Oxford University Press. Oxford,
1971, 26. 31, 43-9, 176; NSW Department of Public Works, Annual Reports.
10. J. Rickard, Class and Politics.
Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1976, 14, 21, 26-7, 34
288; Rowe, loc cit, 40; J. F. O'Connor, 1890: A Turning Point in
Labour History: A Reply to Mrs Philipp, Historical Studies:
Selected Articles, 142-3.
11. RCS. Literary Appendix.
149-50; Sydney Morning Herald (SMH),
24/12/1890; TLC Organising Committee Minutes, 9/2/1891, 19/2/1891,
1/1/1892; TLC General Minutes, 2/1/1891, 11/5/1891, 11/6/1891,
12. TLC Organising Committee Minutes.
13. F.J. Hobsbawm, Labouring Men,
Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1968, 179-81.
14. TLC Organising Committee Minutes,
16/6/1892, 17/6/1892: TLC General Minutes. 18/8/1892. TLC Executive
Committee Minutes, 13/9/1892.
15. TLC Organising Committee Minutes,
16. In mid-1893, the ULPS contributed
to the Broken Hill miners, more than £50 to striking seamen,
quarrymen and £25 to the stonemasons, TLC General Minutes,
passim; TLC Organising Committee Minutes, 7/12/1892.
17. Ibid, 30/5/1891.
18. TLC General Minutes, 1893-5,
19. Public Service Board (PSB),
the Prince Alfred Hospital (and the Day Labour System), New South Wales
Legislative Assembly Notes and Proceedings. (NSWLAVP), 1904, 659; TLC
General Minutes, 13/9/1891, 5/4/1894, 11/10/1894, 11/2/1895, 25/10/1895.
20. TLC General Minutes, 14/2/1895.
had always considered all non-unionists to be blacklegs whether or not
they were doing the work of unionists.
21. D.J. Fraser, Early Reinforced
Concrete in New South Wales (1895-1915), Institution of Engineers
Australia, Transactions: Multidisciplinary Engineering, 1985,
22. FBCA, op cit, 261; TLC General
Minutes, 1/12/1900; UPLS Minutes, 25/9/1899, 11/12/1899 (ML Mss 262,
box 4), Worker, 7/1/1899, 21/1/1899, 28/1/1899.
23. B. Mansfield, Australian
Democrat, University of Sydney Press, Sydney, 1965, 157-8, 237; PSB
Report on Prince Alfred Hospital, loc cit, 686-92, 712; Public
Service Journal (PSJ), 10/5/1901; Worker, 5/10/1901;
ULPS Minutes, 8/1/1900.
24. Mansfield, op cit 174.
25. B.E. Mansfield, The State as
Employer: An Early Twentieth Century Discussion. Australian
Journal of Politics and History, vol III, no 2, May 1958, 183; PSB
Report on Prince Alfred Hospital, loc cit, 659; PWD Annual Report
26. Mansfield, The State as
Employer, loc cit, 188-9; Worker, 1/2/1902.
27. Mansfield, Australian Democrat,
158; PWD Annual Report 1901-2, 102; Worker, 30/3/1901.
28. ULPS General Minutes, 9/7/1901,
15/4/1901; ULPS Rules Committee Minutes 20/9/1900; ULPS Rules,
Sydney, 1902 (ML 331,88 U).
29. ULPS General Minutes. 1902-4,
passim; Worker 9/11/1901.
30. Cf FBCA op cit, for years 1892 to
1902; MBA, Ten Years of Labour Rule in New South Wales,
Sydney, 1902. After discussions with O'Sullivan, the ULPS Board of
Management recommended an end to the payment of "principle pay" for
walking off the job in support of union rules without the union's
permission. ULP Minutes. 19/9/1902.
31. PSB Report on Prince Alfred
Hospital, loc cit, 660 and passim; ULPS Minutes, eg 265, 1902 for
Bricklayers' Society Worker, 16/2/1901.
32. MBA Annual Report for 1903,
ULPS Board of Management Minutes, 22/9/1903; ULPS Minutes, 11/3/1903,
19/11/1903. Cf Hobsbawm's comment for Britain, that: "The classical
'labourers' union knew perfectly well that it could win little without
a strike: at any rate an occasional one." op cit 189.
33. TLC General Minutes, 18/4/1901;
ULPS General Minutes, 15/4/1901; Worker 25/5/1901.
34. Eg Worker, 26/4/1902.
35 In 1901, the BLU representatives
66 members. In 1902 they said it had been 140. In 1902, they said the
majority of Sydney's builders labourers were among the 111 BLU
members(!) and ridiculed the ULPS for claiming at least 300 builders'
labourers (TLC General Minutes. 30/4/1902). Seven sears later they
admitted that there had been 100 builders labourers among the 1400
Sydney ULPS members in 1902. Transcripts of Industrial Court Hearings
(ICT) 3/8/1909) NSW State Archives 2/136, vol 83). For ULPS campaigns
on behalf of builders labourers for example scaffolding and lifts
legislation, see UPLS and TLC Minutes, 1900-4. Note also ULPS claims
that BLU members worked for lower rates. ULPS Minutes, 10/11/1902. For
evidence of BLU-employer collusion against the ULPS and its attempts to
reduce hours, PSB Report on Prince Alfred Hospital, loc cit, 690, 759.
36. Eg Louis Sweeting, ULPS Minutes,
37. All figures of trade union
membership for 1903-10 from Reports of the Registrar of Friendly
38. Labour Commissioners of NSW.
Report for 1903. NSWLAVP 1903, vol III. 1286; ULPS Minutes,
39. ULPS Minutes. 1902-4. passim; Worker,
1/2/1902, 8/3/1902, 24/5/1902.
40. PSJ. 4/8/1900, 9/3/1901,
10/2/1902; Water Board Minutes 7/11/1900, 11/2/1903, 13/7/1904(MWSDBA).
See also P. Sheldon, A Middle Class Union: The Early Days of the
Public Service Association of NSW, Labour and History,
Control for Workers Health: The 1908 Rockchoppers' Strike in Sydney,
Labour History, November 1988.
42. Water Board Minutes 10/9/1903,
43. FBCA, op cit 393-4, 431, 456-9;
J. Rydon and R.N. Spann, New South Wales Politics, 1901-1910, Sydney
Studies in Politics, Number 2, Melbourne 1962, 59.
44. MBA Annual Reports for 1907;
Rydon and Spann op cit, 58, 68, 98, 105, 115.
45. TLC General Minutes, 5/4/1906,
28/2/1907, 6/2/1908, 15/10/1908.
46. Sheldon, Job
47. P. C. Macarthy, Wage
Determination in News South Wales, 1890-1921, Journal of
Industrial Relations, vol 10, no 3. November 1968. 190-2.
48. Rydon and Spann, op cit 97-98,
106; TLC General Minutes, 1908-9.
49. Sheldon, Job
Control; ICT, 19/101909 (NSW State Archives 2/138, vol 85).
50. ICT, 29/3/1909 (NSW State
Archives, 2/125, vol 24).
51. lbid, 31/3/1909, (NSW State
Archives, 2/127, vol 74).
52. Ibid, 26/7/1909 (NSW State
Archives, 2/136, vol 83).
54. Ibid, 3/8/1909, 19/10/1909.
55. Cooperator Eight Hour Souvenir,
7/10/1912; Transcripts of Hearings of the Metropolitan Water and
Sewerage (General Labourers) Wages Board 1910, 25, 31, 62, 95, 131
(Water and Sewerage Employees' Union Archive, Sydney).
56. ICT 21/4/1910 (NSW State Archives
57. O'Connor, loc cit, 142-43.
58. Hobsbawm op cit, 190-2.
59. TLC General Minutes, 21/1/1909.